Sea of Thieves has been quite prevalent in the news recently, with the closed beta finally giving non-alpha members the chance to try the game out for themselves. It’s also been putting up extremely impressive numbers on Twitch and Mixer, regularly taking the top place as most-viewed game. When I played the Sea of Thieves closed beta, I had a blast, with lots of different fun, interesting highlights. With that said, it also reinforced a couple of concerns I have. So, in this impressions piece, I’m going to give you my honest opinion of the Sea of Thieves closed beta: what I liked, what I didn’t like and what I think it needs to be a success.
Do note, obviously, that these are my thoughts on a closed beta, and as such, there’s plenty of content that will be in the full game that wasn’t available here.
Just what can you do?
In this closed beta, there is a handful of weapons and three ships available. One ship is meant for a crew of four, another for a pair of pirates and the last is for those lone wolves out there. While all three are viable options of playing, in the beta I found the most fun was to be had in a crew of four. Once you’ve selected your crew size and matching ship, you’re dropped into one of the many island taverns. From there, you have free reign of exploring the seas and nearby islands, attacking or befriending other players you encounter.
There was only one faction, the Gold Hoarders (there will be three factions in the full game, with more possibly added later) and the only quest line available revolved around collecting treasure chests and returning them for a payout. At times, you were given a simple map of an island with the treasure marker, which you’d then have to find on the ship’s map. At other times, it was in the form of a riddle, asking you to perform a certain number of steps at a vague location. Despite being the same type of quests, this kept things from getting too repetitive.
Once you turn in your treasure chests, you get gold, which can then be used to purchase new items, from cosmetic bling like fancier clothes and instruments, to very useful items like a deadly blunderbuss.
Here’s what I liked:
While I’ve played tons of co-op games, many of which allowed for ridiculous antics and “emergent gameplay” (as it might be called), I don’t think any game has ever captured this style more than Sea of Thieves. With a crew of your friends, it’s the ultimate shenanigans simulator. In one instance, my crew and I embarked on the tavern and begun to heartily down some grog. Mug after mug they drank, not knowing what awaited them. Within the minute, they were vomiting all over the tavern, stumbling around for the exit. We laughed and laughed and laughed, simply taking in the sheer ridiculous fun of the situation.
Later, on our return from a voyage collecting treasure, we encountered a small enemy ship that opened fire on us. Despite having only played together for a short amount of time, everyone knew their roles and fell into position like clockwork. Cannons boomed, splinters flew, it was a sight to behold. Chasing after our attacker, it was only some quick work on the rigging and a hard turn to port that saved us from being dashed on the rocks. I simply can’t recall the last time a game made me feel so engaged and important as part of a team.
Also, it simply must be said, this game is gorgeous. The waves, the sunsets, the brewing storms and fierce lightning, it’s a combo of stylized and realistic visuals that works beautifully. The game isn’t even Xbox One X enhanced yet, so it’s incredible that it’ll look even better on that console at release than it does now.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
While the gunplay is fine, there’s no denying that the swordplay is a little stiff and limited. You can block and slash however, that’s it and there’s very little (if any) impact felt. Sword fights are a major part of anything to do with pirates, so I honestly feel this needs improvement. The impact and weightiness of the melee combat needs to be increased, which would at least help.
Now, it’s obvious that this is first and foremost a multiplayer game, be under no illusions. That said, it would be nice to have more things for solo players to do. In this closed beta, unless you truly love exploring or attacking enemy ships by yourself, there wasn’t as much to do. Whether it’s bounty-hunting infamous players or quests tailored towards just one or two pirates, having more content that falls under that spectrum will probably help attract more players.
The Sea of Thieves closed beta shed a lot of light on Xbox’s next big first-party game. There are however still questions to be answered. There’s going to be a metric ton of cosmetics in the full game, of that I have no doubt. There will also be skeleton bosses, many breeds of wildlife and of course, the dreaded Kraken. Will there be varying quest lines within individual factions though? While not required, it would certainly help keep the game fresh.
Sea of Thieves has great potential however, it has challenges to overcome. It feels like a fun world designed to bring out great experiences in a dynamic fashion from the ways that players interact. As long as Rare provides substantial content updates on a regular basis after launch, I honestly believe Sea of Thieves could be the next big hit for Xbox.